A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned my first grad school poetry professor, Glover Davis. When I think of people describing a tough teacher as being their favorite, I start to wonder about how that can be, and then I think of Glover Davis. I’m pretty sure I cried after my very first poem was workshopped and critiqued by him in my first MFA class. He was brutally honest. But it was a tough love. He challenged me to do better, and eventually I chose him as my thesis advisor. Although I am much more of a free verse poet, Glover Davis was a formalist, and he taught me to use and love my favorite form – syllabics. And while I remember him stripping me down that first semester, I remember even more him building me back up my last semester, when he had me read my definition of love from a paper written for his class, saying it was the most true definition of love he had ever read. This PoeMonday is his:

Separate Lives

We searched for a bar where brewery workers drank.
We strolled down streets where walls trembled with flowers,
with bougainvillae, honey-suckle, wisteria.
Picked leaves and blossoms stuck like paint or turned
so soft and fat they crawled across your palm.
You smeared them on your pants and sighed and went
on looking for a door whose inset glass
distorts the faces shining through.
When your feet began to throb you pulled a sock
from your right foot; the bruise was blue and flecked
with oil and we would sit for hours on a curb.
You wound ace bandages on ankles, knees
and wrists until at last you stiffly rose
and led us into streets you’d never seen
before, streets whose oak doors were bolted shut.
We scrambled up a slope and crept through yards.
Whole families, bent above their plates, would turn
at once like deer and stare into the dark
beyond the seperating glass where white
shirts passed as ghostly robes and fear
of what we were, of what each one could be
moved on their faces lit by candles, bulbs,
the charcoal glowing in the metal trays.
At last we found the street and as we walked
the houses changed—adobe, Spanish tile.
This could be Mexico, California, Spain.
This could be anywhere for homeless men.
I hoped that you would find that bar but knew
you wouldn’t, knew that we would roam
these strange, familiar streets until the dawn.
That place where men were brothers as they drank
away the afternoon was like a song
on a jukebox lined with tubes of rising colors.

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